Recap: A teenage response to the late 90’s bestseller, Reviving Ophelia, Ophelia Speaks is a book of essays written by teenage girls from around the country. In it, they discuss the issues they face — everything from sex, drugs, and eating disorders to depression, school-related stress and racial issues. For parents of teens, it’s an eye-opener. For teens, it reads like a relatable diary.
Its predecessor, Reviving Ophelia, was written by a therapist to discuss what teens deal with, but hearing it from the teens themselves in Ophelia Speaks packs a gut-wrenching punch. Suicidal tendencies seem common place, as does experimentation with boys, other girls, and alcohol. That may be frightening for parents, but for many teens, it’s the norm.
The book is divided into chapters focusing on specific issues. Each chapter includes three or four essays from different girls about that topic. Some are poems, some are actual diary entries, but they all tell deeply moving and emotional tales. Some are uplifting, but most tell the stories of lost, confused, frustrated, and sad girls. This is not to say that teenage girls are sad and lost all the time, but a constant lack of confidence is very real for many of them.
Analysis: I enjoyed the book as much as I could, but had to put it down several times and come back to it between books. On a personal note, Ophelia Speaks brought me back to a dark time in my teenage years. It reminded me of the hardships I faced with boys, my parents, school, and a lack of confidence that lead to other issues. Needless to say, it was difficult for me to get through.
Because of the subject matter, I think the book is better suited to teenage girls and parents of teenage girls. For the girls, it’s relatable and would easily make any girl feel less alone in her world of seeming catastrophe. For parents, it would make them more aware of what their daughters struggle with on a regular basis. There’s a lot to be learned from this book — as both a teaching source and a self-help book. For women not quite in the mother-daughter group, it’s still powerful, but doesn’t have the same direct impact as it could. I wish I read it 6 years ago.